Jail overcrowding continues to stress system
By Becky Jane Newbold, Managing Editor
What began as a $10,000 investment for Lewis County into a generator became $35,000 during new business Monday evening during the January meeting of the Lewis County Board of Commissioners.
Commissioner Kenny Prentice was absent. Sheriff Dwayne Kilpatrick explained Prentice was involved in a prisoner transport.
HCTec, a Brentwood-based health information technology and revenue cycle management resources company, announced a move to Hohenwald’s War Memorial Building in recent months. As part of the incentive to bring as many as 40-100 jobs to Lewis County, a build-out of the space is being funded by Lewis County government along with the purchase of a generator.
Mayor Bill Webb informed the Board of Commissioners a bid for a generator had been received in the amount of $10,000, but Monday evening the mayor informed the cost had changed because the equipment quoted was not what was needed.
In a 14 to one vote, with Commissioners Patrick Halfacre and Ronnie Brewer passing, the board approved the increase to fund the equipment. Commissioner Robert Brewer voted no.
“They are getting the space rent-free for 11 years which comes to approximately $400,000,” Robert said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “Its a lot of money, taxpayer money,” he added.
As part of the tech company’s contract, they must employ 40 people in the first three years or pay rent, Commissioner Connie Sharp pointed out Monday evening.
“I’ve been here three years and no one has knocked on my door wanting to rent the 8,000 square feet,” the mayor said.
The resolution was amended to debit $25,000 from the General Fund as $10,000 had already been earmarked with a motion by Commissioner Brian Peery, seconded by Commissioner Sharp.
Tuesday morning, Jail Administrator Fred Boyce reiterated overcrowding has been an ongoing problem. “The ones that don’t have a bunk are on the floor on mats. We have been at capacity one or two weeks in 10 months. We cannot properly segregate prisoners without space.”
A video surveillance system was down for two days earlier in January prompting a replacement at a cost of $9821.12. An amendment to change the resolution from $10,000 to the exact amount was suggested by Commissioner Ronnie Brewer, seconded by Commissioner Timmie Hinson to precede a unanimous vote of approval.
Mayor Webb reported an analysis of cost estimations for converting a building in the industrial park to a jail is expected in the next few weeks. Cost estimates of a new jail at the present site have been received by the county at $6.2 million. Lewis County Jail stands to be decertified by the State of Tennessee if changes to the current conditions are not initiated soon.
An increased need for medical care at the jail prompted Jail Administrator Boyce to request 10 additional nursing hours for the current employee. A quote from the healthcare contract was found to be in error. The amendment was tabled until the company could provide correct numbers with a motion by Commissioner Peery, seconded by Commissioner Halfacre.
In other business, committee reports were heard from Solid Waste as reported by Commissioner Chris Dyer, from the Safety Committee as reported by Commissioner Sharp and the Budget Committee as reported by Commissioner Landis Turner.
Director of Schools Benny Pace’s report was unanimously accepted with a motion by Commissioner Hinson, seconded by Commissioner Ronnie Brewer.
Sheriff Dwayne Kilpatrick’s quarterly report was accepted with a motion by Commissioner Michael King, seconded by Commissioner Larry Hensley.
Trustee Mike Webb was absent due to a death in the family. His written report was accepted with a motion by Commissioner Wendell Kelley, seconded by Commissioner Bruce Bowen.
Highway Commissioner Joyce Holt presented a revised road list and her quarterly report was unanimously accepted with a motion by Commissioner Leon Hunter, seconded by Commissioner Billy Meek. She informed the board that several roads in the county were separating due to freezing temperatures and thawing. Her crews were making repairs. “Bad winters are our worst enemy,” she stated.
Some of the tar and chip surfaces are so bad Holt said it would be cheaper to go back over them with chert.
A report by EMA Director Danny Atkinson was approved unanimously with a motion by Commissioner Peery, seconded by Commissioner Kelley.
Chairman of the Park Board Don Barber was on hand to report on Memorial Park. New officers were elected at a January meeting, he said. Timmie Hinson was elected vice-chair and Travis Hinson was elected secretary.
The park board presented a list of surplus property, which was unanimously approved with a motion by Commissioner Peery, seconded by Commissioner King.
Budget amendments for Lewis County Schools were approved in the amount of $25,051 by roll call vote, sponsored by Commissioners Hensley and Kelley.
A budget amendment to the Highway Department budget for $149,350.22 was unanimously approved, sponsored by Commissioners Jerry Ashmore and Hensley.
A Sheriff’s Department amendment in the amount of $132.91 received as a refund was unanimously approved by roll call vote, sponsored by Commissioners Hensley and Kelley.
A lengthy discussion regarding uncollected solid waste fees resulted in failure of a resolution to write off the amounts that were five years old. Bringing delinquent fines to court was discussed as was adding the amount to property owners tax cards. Voting in favor of the writing off of the fines were Commissioners King, Bowen and Sharp. Commissioner Hinson passed and the remaining 13 commissioners voted no.
The purchase of additional 10 acres for the landfill was approved unanimously in the amount of $4,000 per acre, $40,000 total.
Appointed as notaries were Jennifer Crowell, Cheryl Robertson and Kaci Shanes.